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Tapping Desire

November 30, 2000|MARK A. KELLNER |

There's no shortage of hand-held computing gifts this year: The vast popularity of the Palm platform and its sibling Handspring Visor has led to dozens of accessories and useful items that any user should be glad to get.

If your goal is to launch someone with a hand-held device, the Palm m100 is a good start because of its low price of $149. The m100 is limited to 2 megabytes of RAM. Prices on other Palm-class hand-helds range from $249 for the Handspring Visor Deluxe with 8 MB of RAM to $449 for the Palm VIIx wireless or the full-color Handspring Visor Prism, each of which also packs 8 MB of RAM.

On the Pocket PC side, prices tend to run in the $449 to $499 range. Compaq's iPaq H3650, the most popular of the bunch, remains hard to find and commands online auction premiums of nearly double its $499 list price. Hewlett-Packard's Jornada 540 is a bit more widely available, as are two models from Casio, the EM-125 and the EM-500.

Palm devices dominate the market, however, outselling the Pocket PC by about 4 to 1, which is why the bulk of the gift items in this roundup are for those users.

(a) Handspring Backup Module

Price: $40

Plug this into the Visor expansion slot to save data and programs without connecting to a desktop computer. The advantages are many: time, trouble and security in case your device is lost, stolen or its internal memory gets fried. Sadly, the module doesn't let you add its 8 MB to the Visor's memory store.

(b) Palm m100

Price: $149

Just like a regular Palm computer but smaller and with less memory (2 MB). But for the beginning personal digital assistant user, or for someone who wants merely to track his or her social life, the unit has more than enough heft to handle the tasks. Plus, you can get extra color faceplates for $20 a pop to jazz up the m100's look. The device includes a traditional Palm date book, an address book, to-do lists and so forth. It's a great starter PDA or a companion to a work-only setup.

(c) Kodak PalmPix

Price: $149

Snap one onto your Palm III series--or, with an adapter, the Palm V--hand-held and you get 640-by-480 resolution black-and-white or color snaps that can be transferred to your PC for printing and e-mailing. Quality isn't high enough for publication, but it's a great way to grab casual pictures at meetings, on trips or elsewhere. Kodak offers a version for the Palm m100 as well but hasn't yet brought out a PalmPix for Handspring Visor users.

(d) SoundsGood Audio Player

Price: $249 (after rebate)

Pop the module in your Visor, sync up to your PC's MP3 music library and download as much as an hour of digital stereo music. Great for waiting in long holiday lines; also a cool traveling companion. Spoken audio can also be stored, in somewhat greater length, on this device, making it possible to carry around audio books and Internet broadcasts for listening when convenient.

(e) Casio EM-500

Price: $499

The EM-500 is a Pocket PC device boasting 16 MB of RAM, a full-color display and portable versions of Microsoft Word, the Excel spreadsheet and Outlook, an address book and e-mail program. The device instantly syncs with desktop versions of the same programs, as well as offering pocket-size Web browsing. Casio's latest twist on the Pocket PC offers five kicky colors and postage-stamp-size memory cards, including--for the holidays--a free 28 MB memory card (coupon and $5.95 shipping cost required) that boosts storage to 44 MB.


Mark A. Kellner is editor at large for Government Computer News.

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